Saturday, July 17, 2010

Roadside bomb use will drop, general says -

Roadside bomb use will drop, general says - "WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) -- The number of roadside bomb attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan will likely drop by the end of the year, a Pentagon general said.

Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, chief of the joint Improvised Explosive Devices Defeat Organization, said its counterinsurgency strategy will be fully implemented, troops will have better equipment to counter the bombs and more bomb-planting insurgents will have been killed, USA Today reported Monday.

'If those three elements come into play, and I do think they will, my estimate is that we should see a turn down in the IEDs' effectiveness and number sometime six months from now,' Oates said. 'The confluence of those three factors is going to have a significant effect on the enemy. It will improve our ability to operate.'

The use of IEDs is the top killer of U.S. troops and the insurgents' preferred weapon, he said.

James Carafano, a military expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told USA Today the threat of IEDs is 'overblown.' While a reducing their effectiveness is good, it would lead insurgents to switch to other forms of attack, he said....

bth: This is such a crock. The IED attacks always go down seasonally at the end of the year because the ground is frozen in many places and many Taliban are in Pakistan in December. As to Mr Carafano, well I'd suggest strapping his fat ass to the hood of a humvee and see if he thinks IEDs are overblown or not.

The DEW Line

The DEW Line

Videos Posted by Rethink Afghanistan: NOT MAKING US SAFER: Rethink Afghanistan, Part Six | Facebook

Videos Posted by Rethink Afghanistan: NOT MAKING US SAFER: Rethink Afghanistan, Part Six | Facebook: "

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Bionic Legs Let Paralyzed Man Walk Again (VIDEO)

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Republicans divided on the importance of an agenda for midterm elections

Republicans divided on the importance of an agenda for midterm elections...But will Republicans actually want to run on those ideas -- or any ideas? Behind the scenes, many are being urged to ignore the leaders and do just the opposite: avoid issues at all costs. Some of the party's most influential political consultants are quietly counseling their clients to stay on the offensive for the November midterm elections and steer clear of taking stands on substance that might give Democratic opponents material for a counterattack.

"The smart political approach would be to make the election about the Democrats," said Neil Newhouse of the powerhouse Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, which is advising more than 50 House and Senate candidates. "In terms of our individual campaigns, I don't think it does a great deal of good" to engage in a debate over the Republicans' own agenda. ...

bth: the Know Nothings return

YouTube - The Last of the Mohicans - Promentory

YouTube - The Last of the Mohicans - Promentory

'Leave your job or we will cut your head off your body...' - Asia, World - The Independent

'Leave your job or we will cut your head off your body...' - Asia, World - The Independent: "Women in Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan say they are once again being threatened, attacked and forced out of jobs and education as fears rise that their rights will be sacrificed as part of any deal with insurgents to end the war in Afghanistan.

Women have reported attacks and received letters warning of violence if they continue to work or even contact radio stations to request songs.

One female teacher at a girls' school in a southern Afghan province received a letter saying: 'We warn you to leave your job as a teacher as soon as possible otherwise we will cut off the heads of your children and will set fire to your daughter.'

Another woman, Jamila, was threatened in August 2009, in a letter bearing the Taliban's insignia when she was working for a local electoral commission. It said: 'You work in the election office together with the enemies of religion and infidels. You should leave your job otherwise we will cut your head off your body.'

Jamila ignored the letter, but days later her father was murdered. She left her job and moved house.

Activists are fearful that their rights will be sold out in a deal between the Taliban or other insurgent groups and the US-backed Afghan government. They believe that if the Taliban is given a share in power, women will again be reduced to a condition close to slavery, as when the Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan in 1996-2001. Then, women could not leave their house without a close male relative and had to cover their faces and bodies with an all-enveloping burka or chadori.

Women, who had made up 70 per cent of teachers and 50 per cent of civil servants, were banned from working except in healthcare. Even as medical workers, there were severe restrictions and many women died either in childbirth or from disease because of lack of medical attention. The UN estimated that only 3 per cent of girls received primary education under Taliban rule.

With the war reaching a stalemate over the last year, Afghan and foreign leaders have prepared the ground for talks with insurgents by claiming they are more moderate and pragmatic than the Taliban government overthrown in 2001. The head of the International Security Assistance Forces' reintegration unit, Lt-General Graeme Lamb, said: 'Who are these Taliban? They are local people. The vast majority are guns for hire; not fighting for some ideological reason.'

The idea that the present day Taliban is less hostile to women than the old is contradicted by the experiences of women in Taliban-held districts. A report by Human Rights Watch – based on interviews with 90 women in districts largely held by insurgents in four different provinces – shows that women are being deprived of all rights.

The report, entitled The 'Ten Dollar Talib' and Women's Rights: Afghan Women and the Risks of Reintegration and Reconciliation, is released this week. It says the belief that new Taliban has emerged influenced by money rather than ideology is wrong.

It criticises the idea of the 'Ten Dollar Talib' who fights for money, as an attempt by US and Nato forces to make power-sharing with them more palatable to western audiences who had previously been told they were an enemy to be defeated. Hostility to women is shared by other insurgent leaders as well as the Taliban. The strongest rebel force in the provinces south of Kabul is the Hezb-i-Islami, which Western and Afghan leaders have spoken of as a group that might be tempted to join the government.

The movement's leader is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose first political act was reportedly to throw acid in the faces of unveiled female students at Kabul University in the early 1970s.

The HRW report is the first time that repression of women in Taliban- controlled areas in Afghanistan has been systematically studied. All the women interviewed – who are referred to by pseudonyms for safety reasons – said they had lost freedoms. In some cases, women have been killed.

On 13 April this year a female aid worker, Hossai, 22, was shot as she left the office of an American development organisation and died the next day. She had been threatened by the Taliban the previous week. Many of the threats are contained in letters delivered to the door at night – known as 'night letters' – or left at the local mosque. Soon after Hossai was killed, Nadia – who worked for an international NGO – got a letter telling her to stop working for infidels and 'in the same way that yesterday we have killed Hossai, whose name was on our list, your name and other women's names are on our list'. Sometimes the same letter is sent to a number of women. In late 2009, in Kapisa province east of Kabul, women were warned not to ring up radio stations and request songs. They were told if they did they would be beheaded or acid thrown in their faces.

Many women have been forced to give up their jobs and stay at home, even though half the population earns less than $2 a day and there is a chronic lack of employment.

Girls' schools, which sprang up again after 2001, are once more being ordered to close. In Kunduz province in the north, the shadow Taliban governor sent out orders that no girls were to be educated past puberty. One threatening letter delivered to a school read: 'You were already informed by us to close the school and not mislead the pure and innocent girls under this non-Muslim government.'...

The report says that women should be involved and able to protect their interests in any negotiations about reintegration or reconciliation with the Taliban. One female member of parliament doubts this is possible because 'the Taliban would rather see a woman die in the streets than go to a restaurant to get food if men were there. These are the kind of people we're talking about'....

Homeland security releases new funds to non-profits

Homeland security releases new funds to non-profits | JTA - Jewish & Israel News
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The Department of Homeland Security released $19 million to secure non-profits, the vast majority Jewish.

Of 271 institutions named in a list released this week by DHS, 254 are Jewish, including synagogues, schools, community centers and offices.

The funds were released as part of a congressionally mandated program in place since 2005 that targets institutions that are vulnerable to attack.

Security measures funded include "blast proof windows; reinforced doors, locks, gates, and fences; video surveillance; and other equipment and enhancements" as well as training, according to a release by the Jewish Federations of North America, the federations umbrelaa body that lobbies annually for the funding....

North Korean Poster

Friday, July 16, 2010

China UFO Sightings, Back-To-Back, Alarm Residents (VIDEO, POLL)

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Military Videos - Military Times

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Nightwatch: Venezuela is becoming a base camp for FARC

NightWatch 20100715 - KGS
Colombia: A leaked report by Colombian intelligence services and the Administrative Department of Security claims there are approximately 1,500 guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 28 support and first aid camps in the Venezuelan states of Apure and Zulia, El Espectador reported 15 July. The report indicated that FARC leaders Ivan Marquez and German Briceno travel freely in those regions and that Marquez met with an unidentified Venezuelan general at least twice in Barinas state between 6 and 12 March.

The news outlet provided no larger context for the report, but on its face it provides further evidence that Venezuela under Hugo Chavez is a state sponsor of terrorism.

YouTube - Richard Thompson - 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

YouTube - Richard Thompson - 1952 Vincent Black Lightning: "- Sent using Google Toolbar" - No. 1 Nation in Sexy Web Searches? Call it Pornistan - No. 1 Nation in Sexy Web Searches? Call it Pornistan: ..."So here's the irony: Google ranks Pakistan No. 1 in the world in searches for pornographic terms, outranking every other country in the world in searches per person for certain sex-related content.

Pakistan is top dog in searches per-person for 'horse sex' since 2004, 'donkey sex' since 2007, 'rape pictures' between 2004 and 2009, 'rape sex' since 2004, 'child sex' between 2004 and 2007 and since 2009, 'animal sex' since 2004 and 'dog sex' since 2005, according to Google Trends and Google Insights, features of Google that generate data based on popular search terms.

The country also is tops -- or has been No. 1 -- in searches for 'sex,' 'camel sex,' 'rape video,' 'child sex video' and some other searches that can't be printed here.

Google Trends generates data of popular search terms in geographic locations during specific time frames. Google Insights is a more advanced version that allows users to filter a search to geographic locations, time frames and the nature of a search, including web, images, products and news....

bth: camel sex I can understand

Study: Hundreds of Contractor Deaths in Afghanistan Unreported -- News from

Study: Hundreds of Contractor Deaths in Afghanistan Unreported -- News from "A recent report by the US Congress has found that private security contractors in Afghanistan are dying at 4.5 times the rate that US soldiers are in the nation. The report also found that the contractors’ deaths go virtually unreported internationally.

While most of the contractors are said to have been killed guarding convoys, though the exact details are largely unknown, and the deaths are scarcely investigated....

bth: 4.5 x 1

US-Backed Jundallah Bombs Iran Mosque, Killing at Least 21 -- News from

US-Backed Jundallah Bombs Iran Mosque, Killing at Least 21 -- News from "At least 21 people were killed and 100 others wounded this evening in a pair of suicide attacks against a major Shi’ite mosque in the city of Zahedan, the capital of Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan Province. The death toll is said to have included a number of members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Jundallah, a militant separatist group that at one point was tied with al-Qaeda, but has more recently been linked with the US government, claimed credit for the attack, saying it was revenge for the execution of their leader, Abdulmalek Rigi, last month.

Iran was quick to blame the US for the latest attack, since US officials have repeatedly acknowledged providing “support and encouragement” to the group, which has been launching terror attacks in Iran and Pakistan for years.

The attack is eerily similar to a previous strike in Zahedan in May 2009, which also involved suicide bombers attacking worshipers at the Shi’ite mosque in the largely Sunni province. Jundallah claimed that attack as well....

bth:I see it asserted that there is a US government connection, but is there? What is it exactly?

Army sees worst month for suicides ever - Stripes Central - Stripes

Army sees worst month for suicides ever - Stripes Central - StripesBad news from the Army this afternoon; more soldiers killed themselves last month than any other month on record. There were 21 active-duty and 11 reserve soldier suicides.

This news comes just weeks after Gen. Peter Chiarelli told Congress the Army was encouraged by there being 30 percent fewer suicides among active-duty soldiers so far this year than last. Although he said there was more to do, he thought the decrease showed their prevention efforts were working. But with this latest data, the trend seems to be frustratingly more of the same.

Through the first six months of 2009, 88 active-duty soldiers committed suicide. For this year, that number is 80. The trend is most troubling among reserve component soldiers; those numbers jumped from 42 to 65....

NATO says Mullah Omar ordered killing of Afghan tribal chief - Monsters and Critics

NATO says Mullah Omar ordered killing of Afghan tribal chief - Monsters and Critics: "Kabul - An Afghan tribal chief executed by militants earlier this week was on a list of people the Taliban's supreme chief Mullah Omar wanted killed, NATO said Thursday.

Mullah Saleh Mohammad, a member of tribal leaders' council in Khas Uruzgan district of the southern province of Uruzgan, was killed when Taliban militants stopped his car at a make-shift checkpoint on Tuesday, the military said in a statement.

'Mullah Omar sent to his followers a list of Afghans he wants killed,' the NATO statement said, citing information provided by US Special Forces in the area. 'Mohammad was number three on that list. That's why he was killed.'

Mohammad was initially kidnapped by the militants on Monday, but was released when local elders interfered, it said, adding that the following day as he was travelling in a vehicle, 'The insurgents stopped the van, pulled Mohammad out, and shot him on the spot, according to those at the scene.'

Mullah Omar, who has a 10-million-dollar bounty on his head, is believed to hiding in Balochistan province of Pakistan according to US and Afghan officials after his government was toppled by the US-led forces in late 2001. Pakistan has steadfastly denied this claim. ...

Petraeus's first act is to establish militias to fight the Taliban - Asia, World - The Independent

Petraeus's first act is to establish militias to fight the Taliban - Asia, World - The Independent: "Armed militias of the type used to fight the insurgency in Iraq are to be introduced to Afghanistan in what is seen as a controversial part of the new strategy of General David Petraeus to counter the tide of Taliban attacks.

The setting up of the groups – who will provide up to 10,000 fighters – is the first major initiative by General Petraeus after taking over command of Western forces in the Afghan campaign following the sacking of his fellow American, General Stanley McChrystal....

bth: it seems if we are going to do this why stop at 10,000? Why not 100,000 or 200,000? A number that would really make a difference. One benefit of the militia approach is that it is so cost effective. Another is that it lives in the villages it protects.

she has overseen the Congressional Oversight Panel

she has overseen the Congressional Oversight PanelTreasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has expressed opposition to the possible nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a source with knowledge of Geithner's views.

The financial reform bill passed by the Senate on Thursday mandates the creation of a new federal entity charged with protecting consumers from predatory lenders.

But if Geithner has his way, the most prominent advocate for creating the agency may not be picked to lead it.

Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School whose 2007 journal article advocating the creation of such an agency inspired policymakers to enact it into law, has rocketed to prominence since the onset of the financial crisis as one of the leading reform advocates fighting on behalf of American taxpayers.

Warren has been an aggressive proponent for the bureau in public and behind the scenes, working regularly with President Barack Obama's top advisers and the Democratic leadership in Congress. Since 2008, she has overseen the Congressional Oversight Panel, a bailout watchdog created to keep tabs on how two administrations spent hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall Street while struggling to keep distressed homeowners out of foreclosure and small businesses from collapsing.

Yet while her work on behalf of a federal unit designed solely to protect borrowers from abusive lenders has been embraced by the administration, Warren's role as a bailout watchdog led to strained relations with the agency her panel has taken to task with brutal reports every month since Obama took office: Geithner's Treasury Department.

It's no secret the watchdog and the Treasury Secretary have had a tenuous relationship. Geithner's critics have enjoyed watching Warren question him during his four appearances before her panel. Her tough, probing questions on the Wall Street bailout and his role in it -- often delivered with a smile -- are featured on YouTube. One video is headlined "Elizabeth Warren Makes Timmy Geithner Squirm."
Story continues below

While her grilling of Geithner in September, over what members of Congress have called the "backdoor bailout" of Wall Street through AIG, inspired the "squirm" video, just last month Warren pressed Geithner on the administration's lackluster foreclosure-prevention plan, Making Home Affordable. Criticizing him for Treasury's failure to keep families in their homes, she questioned Treasury's commitment to homeowners.

Warren's persistent oversight is part of the reason for Geithner's opposition, according to the source. ....

bth: I've got to tell you when I was in DC about six weeks ago I heard her speak and got to ask her a few questions. She was the only speaker of about six or seven that had a clue what was happening on Main St. in most of America and the only one even interested in really doing something about credit card gouging, Wall Street scams and so on. She is a tough bird but I think we need that head strong determination now. She will be hated by financial lobbyists, credit card companies and mortgage scamsters. That is just fine with me. I like her.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rate of fire from M4

What Really Happened at Wanat - U.S. Naval Institute
...According to U.S. Special Operations Command's SOPMOD (special operations peculiar modification) program office, "The current sustained rate of fire for the M4A1 Carbine is 15 rounds per minute and a maximum rate of 90 [rounds] per minute for short periods in an emergency."18 Firing the M4 carbine at cyclic rates of fire of 90 to 150 rounds per minute, "which is the rate of suppressive fire associated with machine guns" for prolonged periods leads to rapid heating of the barrel and possible failure.19

Tests conducted by both the Army and by Colt indicate that "exceeding the sustained rate of fire of 15 rounds per minute will result in the weapon 'cooking off' rounds after approximately 170 rounds have been fired." If the maximum rate of fire of 90 rounds per minute "is maintained for about 540 rounds, the barrel softens and gas starts to blow by the bullet, changing the sound and size of the muzzle blast." If the operator continues to fire the weapon, the barrel will begin to droop, and finally, at about 596 rounds, the barrel will burst.

While the current M4 configuration exceeds the Army's requirements for general issue, early in the M4 program, the Special Operations Command requested a heavier barrel profile to accommodate the rapid heating that accompanies special operations forces' (SOF) high firing schedules. The Army denied this request, however, because a heavy barrel would be incompatible with M203 installation and because it did not want to add a SOF-unique repair part to its inventory.20 In Fiscal Year 2001, Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) "responded to the distinct needs of SOF with the RIA heavy barrel."

The new heavy-profile barrel still allowed for the installation of the M203, but increased the rounds to cook off to 205 rounds, and the round count to barrel burst to 930. While the new heavy profile did not increase the service life of the barrel, it did provide SOF with, per its requirement document, an M4A1 having a limited light machine-gun capability, of a sort, as it requested.21 It should be noted that the requirement document did not define what this capability meant in the way of sustained fire (in numbers).

In any case, the rationale for such a capability is based on special operations forces' need to break contact with large enemy formations. The method SOFs employ to break contact in such engagements is to lay down an overwhelming burst of fire intended to suppress the enemy long enough for SOFs to slip away. It is for this reason these forces are working to develop a carbine capable of firing two 30-round bursts followed by at least 45 and up to 75 rounds per minute for 440 rounds without damaging the weapon....

YouTube - High-Speed Robot Hand

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Smart Bandages

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Felipepipe18's Blog: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

YouTube - Fairport Convention - Matty Groves

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U.S. battles for supplies as convoy attacks increase – Afghanistan Crossroads - Blogs

U.S. battles for supplies as convoy attacks increase – Afghanistan Crossroads - Blogs: "Peshawar, Pakistan (CNN) — A photo album. A personal letter. A bravery reward for a U.S. Army captain. All were intended for U.S. service members stationed in Afghanistan, but instead are for sale in a Peshawar market.

The Pakistani market, close to the border with Afghanistan, is fabled for selling goods looted from U.S. military resupply convoys that pass through.

Because Afghanistan is landlocked, more than half of all U.S. supplies pass through Pakistan, a route hundreds of miles long through tribal badlands. And the route is coming under increasing attack.

The Taliban know by attacking trucks they can drive up the cost of the war. For the past few years, the cost of resupply convoys has been rising.

Even the main highways are becoming more dangerous. The largest recent attack came just outside the relatively secure capital, Islamabad. More than 80 vehicles were destroyed, including armored military hardware labeled for the U.S. Afghan surge or troops. As with all convoys, there were no U.S. forces and no security guards....


bth: so we have to pay bribe money to the Taliban to let our supplies through and they can choke them off at their leisure. How can we win a war militarily in this situation? I'm not aware of a war that has been won when the enemy controls the supply lines. A larger footprint in Afghanistan will only aggravate the situation.

Pentagon developing 'emergency plan' in absence of war funds -

Pentagon developing 'emergency plan' in absence of war funds - TheHill.comThe Pentagon is “seriously planning” for the possibility that Congress will not pass emergency war funding before lawmakers head to the August recess, said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.

The Pentagon is developing an “emergency plan” to deal with the lack of supplemental funds for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Morrell said at a press briefing Wednesday. Morrell did not disclose any details of the plan, because Defense Secretary Robert Gates has yet to consider the options under that plan.

“Needless to say, all of this is extraordinarily disruptive to the department," Morrell said. “But we've had some practice at this over the last few years. We're sadly getting used to this fire drill.”

The fate of the war supplemental is in the hands of the Senate, which has yet to decide on a strategy to pass the bill. The House earlier this month made changes to a supplemental bill already approved by the Senate in May. Additions the House made to the war-spending bill are now complicating its passage in the Senate.

The Senate expects to consider the supplemental appropriations bill during “this work period,” Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said on Monday....

bth: a few years ago the Pentagon solved this problem by taking the last quarters payroll money and the electricity money to keep US bases going. I suspect a similar stunt this year. Congress won't let the problem get out of hand because of the November elections. What they will do is pile on a whole bunch of junk into the supplemental because they know it will be veto proof.

Afghanistan is losing the American public

Poll: Americans Again Pessimistic on Afghan War -- News from
.... with June’s record death toll comes a return to pessimism about the war’s prospects. The latest poll shows 62 percent believing the war is going badly now, with only 31 believing it is going well.

The poll also showed a majority of Americans, 54-41, want a timetable for exiting Afghanistan. The administration has been lately trying to disavow its July 2011 drawdown date, which was itself a timetable in only the loosest sense of the word. Officials now predict that the war will start going well again in December, which will, not coincidentally, be about the time that the first frost of winter calms the fighting and takes the war out of the public eye.

So the marines are going to field units that can't provide suppressive automatic fire?

Corps Set to Field SAW Replacement

Commandant Gen. James T. Conway gave Corps officials the green light in April to issue approximately 450 M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles, enough to replace every M249 squad automatic weapon in four infantry battalions and one light armored reconnaissance battalion.

The limited fielding is a final test to find out if the Heckler & Koch-made weapon performs as well in an operational environment as it has in testing, said Charles Clark III, who oversees infantry weapons requirements at the Corps' Combat Development and Integration office at Quantico, Va.

"The battlefield test will be a verification of what we have already established through extensive operational testing," Clark said. "We want to get a user assessment prior to full-rate production."

Conway's decision comes despite his past concerns about replacing the M249 with a magazine-fed automatic rifle. His main worry is whether the M27's light weight and accuracy will be enough to make up for the loss of suppressive firepower Marine gunners will give up when they go into battle without the belt-fed M249.

Program officials acknowledge that a 30-round magazine cannot produce the high volume of fire the M249 is capable of when loaded with a 200-round belt. The Corps is considering high-capacity magazines that can hold 50 or 100 rounds of 5.56mm ammo, but Marines that deploy with this first batch of IARs will carry only 30-round magazines.

"The initial limited fielding will not include a high-capacity ammunition source, but that remains an option," Clark said, explaining that such magazines will have to undergo a separate round of testing.

The M27, a variant of the H&K 416, weighs just 7.9 pounds, unloaded. By comparison, the M249 weighs 17 pounds, unloaded.

Marines involved in operational testing at Twentynine Palms, Calif.; Fort McCoy, Wis.; and Camp Shelby, Miss., were "very comfortable with it because it's a lot like a M16A4 and it's far more maneuverable and portable" than the M249, Clark said. "The H&K gun has performed very well throughout operational testing."

Marine officials selected the H&K weapon in October over two prototypes from Colt Defense LLC and one made by FN Herstal. (Colt makes the M4 and FN makes the M249.) The M27 uses a short-stroke gas piston, which proved more reliable than the M16/M4's direct gas system in an Army dust test in late 2007.

The new IAR, which fires from the closed-bolt position, is most effective when employed as a point-target weapon, program officials maintain.

"The accuracy has been a real standout," Clark said. "The IAR has demonstrated to be a far more accurate gun" than the M249, which fires from the open-bolt position.

In the defensive role, the M27 used "far less" ammunition to drop the same number of targets compared to the M249, Clark said.

Program officials maintain that the increased accuracy will compensate for the M27's slower, sustained rate of fire. Unlike the M249, the new IAR doesn't have a spare barrel that can be switched out to prevent overheating. Marine gunners will have to keep their sustained rate of fire at 65 rounds per minute compared to the M249's 85 rounds per minute.

"It has a little bit lower sustained rate of fire, but it's far more accurate," Clark said.

The Corps hopes to begin fielding the M27s in November so Marine units have "four to six months" to train with their new weapons.

"We are not sending these guns straight to Afghanistan," Clark said. "The units that are participating will have the guns long before they go into theater."

Each company in the three active infantry battalions and one reserve infantry battalion will receive 28 M27s, one for every SAW gunner and one extra to remain organic to the unit. These companies will also retain six M249s to give commanders more firepower if necessary, Clark said.

The LAR battalion will receive 14 M27s per company and will not retain any M249s.

The Corps plans on buying 4,476 M27s and reducing its number of M249s from 10,000 to approximately 8,000, Marine officials said.

But that adjustment will not happen until Conway sees the results from the user assessment, Clark said, adding that it could be late next summer before the feedback is collected from theater.

Marine Corps requirements officials hope that Conway will decide whether to take the weapon into full-rate production by late 2011.

"We are confident that the gun we have tested is a good gun, but the final decision rests with the commandant of the Marine Corps," Clark said.

3,000 Laptops Stolen From Mil Contractor

3,000 Laptops Stolen From Mil Contractor: "Thieves allegedly took an estimated 3,000 laptop computers from the Florida warehouse of a military contractor, police said.

The thieves arrived by car at iGov Technologies in Tampa, a contractor for the top secret U.S. Special Operations Command, and broke in through the roof, the St. Petersburg Times reported Monday.

The heist took place during a 9-hour period on March 6 -- a Saturday, when no one was around. The intruders loaded up two semi-trailer trucks with the computers and other equipment, police said.

The Times said the details of the alleged burglary came to light only recently, when a sheriff's detective, having notified the FBI, requested a search warrant in Hillsborough County Circuit Court to find phone records for one of the suspects, which he obtained on June 23.

The warrant sought the phone records for Oddit Perez-Reyes, 39, the owner of the car that pulled up to the warehouse, records showed.

Based on the phone information, the FBI and the Miami-Dade Police Department said they found 1,911 items of the stolen goods in a warehouse in Miami. A SOCOM spokeswoman said the laptops contained no sensitive military information.

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense awarded iGov a $450 million contract to provide mobile technology services connecting special operations troops all over the world.
bth: So let me get this straight. All of this special ops equipment was stolen back in March.

Arlington Cemetery official retires amid probe of botched contracts, site problems

Arlington Cemetery official retires amid probe of botched contracts, site problems: "Arlington National Cemetery's deputy superintendent has retired before Army officials could compel him to meet with a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee investigating contracting irregularities, including more than $5 million paid to a series of minority-owned start-up companies that failed to produce a digitized system for cataloguing remains.

Thurman Higginbotham, the cemetery's longtime second-in-command, submitted paperwork last week to make his retirement retroactive to July 2, the week Army officials were notified that congressional staffers were seeking to interview him regarding dozens of botched contracts.

Higginbotham had been placed on administrative leave last month pending disciplinary review after Army investigators found more than 100 unmarked graves, scores of grave sites with headstones not recorded on cemetery maps, and at least four burial urns that had been unearthed and dumped in an area with excess grave dirt. Investigators found that those and other blunders were the result of a 'dysfunctional' and chaotic management system, poisoned by bitterness between Higginbotham and the cemetery's superintendent, John C. Metzler Jr.

Metzler was reprimanded last month but was allowed to retire July 2 with full pension benefits. On Tuesday, Higginbotham's eligibility for retirement benefits was not immediately clear. He had worked at Arlington for more than 40 years and served as its deputy superintendent since 1990.

Cemetery spokeswoman Kaitlin Horst said that Higginbotham's retirement was being reviewed but that generally an employee's departure precludes the Army from taking further administrative action.

The Army's investigation of 'wrongdoing while Higginbotham was still employed' continues, Horst said. ...

bth: The article is worth reading in full just to appreciate the level of incompetence and corruption the Army was willing to tolerate. The recent PR piece on the returned remains of the WWI veteran, which in fact had been in the works for years, was an attempt by the Army to blunt criticism and negative publicity generated by the corruption and incompetence of the Arlington National Cemetery management. So Higgenbotham is going to be allowed to slip away with full pension benefits instead of being compelled to testify to the Senate and Metzler got a reprimand which will be expunged from his file in about a month due to retirement as well with full pension. So for the $5 million in apparent mismanaged software contracts and inside dealing, for the blatant incompetence in locating and marking graves, for the wrongful termination of Gina Gray, for the impersonation of her by someone high up in the ANC administration on her computer ... all of this crime and malfeasance will be shoveled under the ground like the misidentified bodies of American heroes they miss located or miss marked when buried. ANC needs to be turned over to the VA like the other national cemeteries. It is that simple. It is senseless for the Army to try to reinvent a computer system for ANC that has existed for years and works fine within the 80 or so VA managed national cemeteries. It isn't right that war heroes or their families should have to put up with this.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

YouTube - Kate Rusby - Who Will Sing Me Lullabies

YouTube - Kate Rusby - Who Will Sing Me Lullabies News Article: Airdrops Break Records in Afghanistan News Article: Airdrops Break Records in Afghanistan:... "n spite of communication glitches and other problems encountered on these missions, during a recent 12-week period, about 500 bundles were dropped per week, which amounts to 450 tons dropped each week.

For comparison, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, 482 tons of supplies were dropped in a two-day period in December 1944. In Vietnam, during the battle of Khe Sahn, 294 tons were dropped in a 77-day period.

Air Force Col. Keith Boone, recently reassigned after serving as director of the Air Mobility Division at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia, managed airdrops since his arrival in Afghanistan last year. He’s been chosen to be vice commander of the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

April set a record for monthly bundles dropped, with more than 2,700 delivered, Boone said, with April 7 setting a single-day record of 200 bundles, equaling 160 tons.

“We have been steadily increasing since sustainment airdrop operations began in 2005,” he said. “Undoubtedly, this is the longest aerial delivery sustainment in the history of military operations. With the exception of about five days, we have had at least one drop every day since I have been here, and I suspect that is true for the past two years.”

Methods of delivering supplies to troops in the field have improved dramatically since the early airdrops of World War II were conducted by pushing small crates with parachutes out of the aircraft's side cargo doors.

“Lots of great innovations [are] happening in theater,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Barbara Faulkenberry, recently reassigned after serving as director of mobility forces and commander of Air Mobility Command’s 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force. “The end result is we're providing what the warfighter needs, when he needs it, and where he needs it.” Faulkenberry has been selected to be deputy chief of logistics for U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

Among those innovations are the Joint Precision Airdrop System, the Improved Container Delivery System and the most recent development, the C-130 “low-cost low-altitude” combat airdrop to resupply soldiers at a forward operating base.

JPADS uses GPS, steerable parachutes and an onboard computer to steer loads to a designated point on a drop zone. It integrates the Army's Precision and Extended Glide Airdrop System and the Air Force's Precision Airdrop System program. ICDS allows for improved precision by factoring in the altitude, wind speed, wind direction, terrain and other circumstances that might affect the drop. A low-cost, low-altitude airdrop is accomplished by dropping bundles weighing 80 to 500 pounds, with pre-packed expendable parachutes, in groups of up to four bundles per pass.

'The LCLA drops will meet the needs of a smaller subset of the units,' Boone said. 'This is a significant step forward in our ability to sustain those engaged in counterinsurgency operations throughout Afghanistan.

...U.S. Central Command Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials said 97 percent of the airdrops have been on target.

“Tactical airlift has never been so responsive, so agile in our [tactics, techniques and procedures], and critical in a fight,” Faulkenberry said. “Airdrop is enabling the small, dispersed [counterinsurgency] unit to engage and operate. This April, we dropped 4,860,000 pounds to ground forces who needed the food, fuel, or ammo. It is taking air-ground teamwork to succeed, and together, we're making our history.”

bth: recent technical improvements in GPS guided parachutes make this possible. Also having aircraft that are now in Afghanistan instead of being in Iraq make it happen in volume. What this also says is that we are losing control of the roads.

Robot shortage 'puts soldiers at bomb risk' | The Australian

Robot shortage 'puts soldiers at bomb risk' | The Australian: "A survey of frontline forces obtained by The Australian, part of a $12 million health study funded by the federal government, also reveals the mental distress improvised explosive devices cause for soldiers, who fear everything from the bomb-jamming equipment to dead bodies booby-trapped with explosives.

The revelations come after The Weekend Australian reported on Saturday that soldiers had outlined the hidden trauma of life on the frontline, including pilots being addicted to Stilnox and other prescription drugs, an underground trade in illicit substances and sex, a lack of support and poor leadership.

The complaints about the lack of bomb-disposal robots come as the nation mourns the death of Australian Sixth Battalion soldier Nathan Bewes, who was killed by a bomb as he patrolled in Afghanistan last week, the third such death from an IED in the country this year...

bth: Australian troops deserve better than this.

Boeing Unveils Unmanned Phantom Eye UAV

Boeing Unveils Unmanned Phantom Eye Demonstrator
ST. LOUIS, July 12, 2010 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] today unveiled the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system, a demonstrator that will stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days.

"Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications," Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said today at the unveiling ceremony in St. Louis. "It is a perfect example of turning an idea into a reality. It defines our rapid prototyping efforts and will demonstrate the art-of-the-possible when it comes to persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The capabilities inherent in Phantom Eye's design will offer game-changing opportunities for our military, civil and commercial customers."

Later this summer, Phantom Eye will be shipped to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to begin a series of ground and taxi tests in preparation for its first flight in early 2011. That debut flight is expected to last between four and eight hours.

"The program is moving quickly, and it’s exciting to be part of such a unique aircraft," said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager for Boeing. "The hydrogen propulsion system will be the key to Phantom Eye's success. It is very efficient and offers great fuel economy, and its only byproduct is water, so it's also a 'green' aircraft."

Phantom Eye is powered by two 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engines that provide 150 horsepower each. It has a 150-foot wingspan, will cruise at approximately 150 knots and can carry up to a 450-pound payload....

bth:  I think this is a hell of a good idea and design concept.

Fire Scout UAV Helicopter Tests Successful - Naval Open Source INTelligence

Naval Open Source INTelligence: "With the support of the United States Navy, Northrop Grumman Corporation and its industry partners (Sikorsky/Schweizer, Rolls-Royce, Raytheon, FLIR Systems, Cubic, Kearfott, Rockwell-Collins, General Electric, Sierra Nevada, Telephonics, and L-3 Communications) today successfully completed a rigorous set of flight demonstrations of the MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical unmanned aerial system (VUAS) in the United Arab Emirates under extreme environmental conditions.

The test flights were conducted in early July over a ten day period in the United Arab Emirates.

They validated Fire Scout's steady system maturation and helped signal its readiness for the U.S. Navy's upcoming Operational Evaluation of the system, planned for late 2010 aboard the USS Halyburton (FFG-40)....

bth: original post have video. This is really important. Unmanned helicopters will be able to provide dangerous close air support for the army and expanded surveillance for the navy. Much to like about this concept. Why is it having trouble clawing through the bureaucracy?

Spooky Timing | Emptywheel

Spooky Timing | Emptywheel: "I assume this is a coinkydink. But oh what a coinkydink it is.

Sergei Tretyakov, a high-ranking Russian spy whose defection to the United States in 2000 was regarded as one of the most significant coups against the Russian government since the collapse of the Soviet Union, died June 13 at his home in Osprey, Fla.

Mr. Tretyakov’s wife said he died after suffering a heart attack, according to Pete Earley, the author of a book about Mr. Tretyakov. The former Russian spy was 53 and news of his death was withheld at the request of his family pending an investigation into the cause, Earley said.


At the time of his defection on Oct. 11, 2000, Mr. Tretyakov allegedly had been working as a double agent for the United States for three years while he was the SVR’s second-in-command in New York. From 1995 to 2000, he oversaw all Russian covert operations in the city and had more than 60 intelligence officers under his command, according to [a book by Pete Earley on Tretyakov].

The intelligence Mr. Tretyakov handed over during his time as a double agent amounted to more than 5,000 top-secret SVR cables and scores of classified Russian intelligence reports. He wrote an estimated 400 papers for the CIA, the FBI, the State Department and the White House.

The WaPo doesn’t say it explicitly, but Tretyakov was, at the time of his defection, the First Secretary at the Russian Mission to the UN in NYC. The Russian handlers of the illegal spy ring just swapped back to Russia served in the same kind of role (Russian Official #2, who is described in most detail in the complaints on the spies, is or was the Second Secretary to the Russian Mission). And the FBI has had the network of illegals under surveillance since at least 2000, suggesting that Tretyakov likely alerted the US of the extent of the ring when he defected (the FBI started surveillance before he defected, but if he was a double agent as has been reported, he may have tipped the US off to the ring).

And look at how it lines up with the discussions of and timing of the bust:

June 5: Mikhail Semenko’s laptop chats with Russian Official #2 surveilled

June 9: Chapman’s laptop chats with Russian Official #1 surveilled

June 11: Obama briefed about Russian spy swap

June 13: Tretyakov dies

June 16: Chapman’s laptop chats with Russian Official #1 surveilled

June 18: Obama chairs NSC meeting on Russian spy swap

June 24: Obama and Dmitri Medvedev go to Ray’s Hell Burger

June 25: Complaint against 9 spies dated

June 26: FBI collects evidence against last two remaining spies; FBI agent says to Chapman, “I know you are going back to Moscow in two weeks.”

June 27: Spies arrested

June 29: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complains about timing of arrest; Obama reported to be miffed about timing of arrest; DOJ attributes timing to pending travel–presumably Chapman’s

Week of July 5: White House almost cancels spy swap because names of proposed spies in Russia leaked

July 8: Spy swap completed

July 10: Two weeks after FBI Agent said Chapman would be traveling to Russian in two weeks; Tretyakov’s death reported

The family may have withheld news of Tretyakov’s death by the heart problem he had had his entire life, but the delay also happened to have delayed news of his death until the spying activity he was originally part of was–at a minimum–exposed as part of this spy sting. And note the meetings involving President Obama on arresting the illegals and conducting the spy swap happened within a week before and after his Tretyakov’s death.

So maybe it’s not such a coinkydink after all…

bth: So is this to say that the Russians knew we compromised this network in 2000 and just kept it running? And what of the timing? Very odd. There are missing pieces to this puzzle.
- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Army’s Self-Driving Trucks Let Humans Watch for Bombs | Danger Room |

Army’s Self-Driving Trucks Let Humans Watch for Bombs | Danger Room | "As insurgents in Afghanistan target the U.S. military’s soft underbelly — its long logistics lines — trucking materiel through war zones has become an increasingly dangerous mission. One U.S. Army solution? Self-driving trucks that let the humans behind the wheel look out for bombs, instead.

Danger Room friend Paul McLeary reports for the new issue of Defense Technology International about an add-on vehicle-automation system called CAST (“Convoy Active Safety Technology“). Developed by Lockheed Martin for the Army on a $5.3 million contract, CAST is a system that you attach to your truck that enables it to drive itself, using radar and sensors (not, say, GPS) to navigate toward a programmed destination.

The system is designed to keep formation with its convoy partners, adjusting speed to maintain safe distances between vehicles, and to pick up the slack if a lead vehicle is disabled. Feel like driving again? Switch CAST to manual and take back the wheel.

According to McLeary, the Army’s tank researchers have put CAST through a ringer: 12,000 hours of unmanned road testing, typically at distances of 35 miles during the day and 15 miles at night. The researchers found that drivers-turned-passengers riding in CAST-controlled trucks were 25 percent more likely to spot roadside bombs, since “the driver was able to watch both sides of the road instead of driving the vehicle.” In other words, algorithms can now play “follow-the-leader” just fine. Looking out for explosives is the hard part — the new place where we carbon units are needed in the loop.

Lots of questions about CAST remain, however. It’s not clear how fast the things go. Previous generations of autonomous automobiles essentially posed a tradeoff between robo-piloting and doing well at basic car tasks like getting to a destination quickly....

bth: this just isn't going to happen the way this article says. For one thing, Paki/Afghan and KBR drivers for that matter are just too good and too cheap to be replaced with this. Second its limited off road capability makes it useless for practical purposes in Afghanistan. Third, note how they have a human riding shotgun. It used to be that the plan was to not have humans in the vehicle which is bad if you think its going to be blown up since the CAST solved nothing and on the other hand stripping people out of the convoy was dumb if you thought you'd' get a flat tire or get shot at. This technology would be better implemented on perimeter security around US military bases, or doing logistics trains at Ft. Hood or at an air force base first.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Israel paves the way for killing by remote control - The National Newspaper

Israel paves the way for killing by remote control - The National Newspaper: "NAZARETH // It is called Spot and Shoot. Operators sit in front of a TV monitor from which they can control the action with a PlayStation-style joystick.

The aim: to kill.

Played by: young women serving in the Israeli army.

Spot and Shoot, as it is called by the Israeli military, may look like a video game but the figures on the screen are real people – Palestinians in Gaza – who can be killed with the press of a button on the joystick.

The female soldiers, located far away in an operations room, are responsible for aiming and firing remote-controlled machine-guns mounted on watch-towers every few hundred metres along an electronic fence that surrounds Gaza.

The system is one of the latest “remote killing” devices developed by Israel’s Rafael armaments company, the former weapons research division of the Israeli army and now a separate governmental firm.

According to Giora Katz, Rafael’s vice president, remote-controlled military hardware such as Spot and Shoot is the face of the future. He expects that within a decade at least a third of the machines used by the Israeli army to control land, air and sea will be unmanned.

The demand for such devices, the Israeli army admits, has been partly fuelled by a combination of declining recruitment levels and a population less ready to risk death in combat....

bth: south korea is doing the same on the dmz

S.Korea deploys sentry robot along N.Korea border

AFP: S.Korea deploys sentry robot along N.Korea border
SEOUL — South Korea has deployed a sentry robot capable of detecting and killing intruders along the heavily fortified border with North Korea, officials said Tuesday.

"Our military has been testing such robots along the border," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

Two robots with surveillance, tracking, firing and voice recognition systems were integrated into a single unit, he said, declining to give details.

The robot unit costing 400 million won (330,000 dollars) was installed last month at a guard post in the central section of the Demilitarised Zone which bisects the peninsula, Yonhap news agency said.

It quoted an unidentified military official as saying the ministry would deploy sentry robots along the world's last Cold War frontier if the test is successful.

The robot uses heat and motion detectors to sense possible threats, and alerts command centres, Yonhap said.

If the command centre operator cannot identify possible intruders through the robot's audio or video communications system, the operator can order it to fire its gun or 40mm automatic grenade launcher....
bth: while this technology was first developed in the US it is quickly being deployed overseas first because the US army is so slow to react.  It is a crying shame that this is occurring in S. Korea and Israel before the US.  Piccatinny has been testing this for years but it won't field. The US does not own the UGV market

South Korean ugv

U.S. Support for Power Plant in Afghanistan Benefits the Taliban -

U.S. Support for Power Plant in Afghanistan Benefits the Taliban - "LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan—The U.S. has poured more than $100 million into upgrading the Kajaki hydropower plant, the biggest source of electricity in south Afghanistan. And it plans on spending much more, in an effort to woo local sympathies away from the Taliban insurgency.

Yet, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this American-taxpayer-financed project are the Taliban themselves.

Since U.S.-funded repairs of a turbine at the Kajaki plant doubled its capacity in October, nearly half of the total electrical output has flowed to districts in Helmand province where the Taliban administer the grid, Afghan officials say. In those districts, residents pay their monthly electricity bills directly to the insurgents, who use the proceeds to fund their war with American and British troops.

"The more electricity there is, the more money the Taliban make," says Hajji Gul Mohammad Khan, tribal-affairs adviser to the government of Helmand.

Helmand is at the center of the war: It is the Afghan province where massive allied operations, such as the push into the area of Marjah earlier this year, have taken place since President Barack Obama ordered a troop surge in December, aiming to reverse Taliban gains. Helmand is by far the deadliest province for U.S.-led coalition troops, accounting for more than a quarter of total fatalities in the nine years of the war....

bth: worth reading in full. This is really the acid test, who gets paid for the centralized services. It looks like it is the Taliban. So we committed this huge investment toward centralized electricity generation instead of a decentralized wind/solar/diesel generator type model. We organize a huge financial and logistical plan to move these new Chinese generators in to replace the good old American ones. Then we do not guard the road and concede it to the Taliban which charges us to deliver cement to our own damn and cuts of the road at will because we left it unguarded. The new generators are sitting in crates in the dirt several years later. Cell phone services and electricity are essentially controlled and taxed at will by the Taliban. The Karzai government can't figure out how to run a tax system, but the Taliban can. What does that tell us about competence in government?

Contractor use in Iraq expected to increase -

Contractor use in Iraq expected to increase - "As the military pulls troops and equipment out of Iraq, the State Department will have to rely increasingly on contractors to perform such services as flying rescue helicopters and disarming roadside bombs, a congressional commission warned.

That is not an ideal solution but none other seems available, members of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan said during a hearing Monday.

While the Defense Department works to reduce its dependence on contractors, State will have to greatly increase its use of hired help.

'Boy, that really troubles me,' said Dov Zakheim, a commission member and former Pentagon budget chief. 'You're going to be getting contractors not only doing what they're doing today, but doing things that are inherently governmental

In a scenario spelled out by commission co-chairman Michael Thibault, if State employees working as trainers for the Iraqi police come under fire from Iraqi insurgents, the injured might well have to be rescued by contractors because military forces are pulling out of the country.

Thibault, who described being rescued by an Army helicopter during his own wartime service, said he would be leery about being rescued by a contract pilot, who he said is unlikely to be as well-trained as a military pilot.

But State appears to have little choice. It lacks its own force of personnel to fly helicopters, disarm bombs or provide dozens of other services that military personnel now provide. And the military is scheduled to reduce its Iraq footprint to 50,000 troops in August and be out of that country by the end of next year.

In Iraq, the State Department has relied on the military to recover damaged vehicles and downed aircraft, manage contractors, protect convoys, provide emergency response forces, provide communications support, gather intelligence and more.

In a letter to the Pentagon this spring, the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service complained that its capabilities are 'inadequate to the extreme challenges in Iraq.'

In many countries, State relies on its host nation to provide for emergency needs, security and other services. But Iraq is in no condition to do that.

Thibault said State will have to more than double its force of 2,700 security personnel. And department officials have asked to keep military equipment, including helicopters and mine-resistant armored vehicles

The State Department also asked to be allowed to continue using the Army's LOGCAP contract and Defense Logistics Agency support to buy food, fuel and other necessities.

The commission criticized a lack of coordination between the two departments as the military moves toward handing the Iraq mission over to the State Department. In a report, the commission has criticized Congress for failing to provide money to pay for support the State Department will need as the military withdraws.

Much of the hearing, however, focused on whether the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) included enough discussion of the military's increased reliance on contractors.

Thibault complained that the 2010 QDR says even less about using contractors than the 2006 document did. 'The new QDR pays scant attention' to planning for contractor use in wartime, he said....

bth: a couple of things. Dov Zakheim lied through his teeth in 2003-04 about the cost of the war when it was his responsibility to tell the truth. The then retired in April 04 as the news of his bogus cost estimates became known. So the agree with him here really galls me. So the military is going to strand the state dept. and state is going to have a 5000 person contractor force which will be the size of 10% of our military footprint in Iraq after the withdrawal this fall and the name change of our remaining troops. When you realize that the QDR barely refers to the civilian contractor army that we rely on, you realize how little is actually learned by the military rotation to rotation. Institutionally it simply ignores the difficult truths - the lesson learned is that no lesson was learned.

China outflanks US in Pakistan - Al jazeera

China outflanks US in Pakistan - Focus - Al Jazeera English
..."Five to six years from now, I think China-Pakistan relations will definitely outweigh US-Pakistan relations, especially because China is willing to invest in sectors outside the military," Rohit Honawar, a Pakistan analyst for the Mumbai-based Strategic Foresight Group, said.

Although many details have yet to emerge from last week's high-level meetings, the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan reportedthat China's Three Gorges Dam Corporation has agreed to invest more than $100bn in hydro-electric projects in Pakistan.

Zardari has met dozens of corporate leaders from China's petroleum, aeronautic, banking and other sectors.

"Relationships between Pakistan and the US are definitely strong because of the war on terror," Honawar said.

"But what really matters are the ground perceptions of what people in Pakistan have of the US, and that at the moment is not in the US's favour."

'All-weather friend'

The Pakistani media has played up Zardari's visit to China, and public awareness of the six-day trip to Islamabad's "all-weather friend" is "phenomenal", he said.

Meanwhile, only 17 per cent of Pakistanis recently surveyed by the Pew Research Centersaid they had a favourable view of the US....

bth: worth a full read

80% of bombs in Afghan war ‘made from banned fertiliser’

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - 80% of bombs in Afghan war ‘made from banned fertiliser’
KABUL: The overwhelming majority of the bombs used to devastating effect by the Taliban in Afghanistan are made from a fertiliser that has been banned by the Kabul government, the defence ministry said on Monday. Ammonium nitrate is the basic ingredient of 80 percent of the crude bombs that are killing record numbers of foreign troops and Afghan civilians each year, the ministry said. The bombs, known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are cheap and easy to make, and are widely deployed by the insurgents in their war against the government of President Hamid Karzai. General Mohammad Shafi Baheer, deputy director of the ministry’s planning department, said that until 2007, IEDs were made from leftover ordnance, littered across the country during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s. “In 2009, 80 percent of materials needed to make bombs were ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate, which are found in fertilisers,” he told reporters. By 2008, the use of old mortars, rockets, bombs and other military explosives in IEDs had dropped to 38 percent, by 2009 to 20 percent, he said. Under pressure from his international partners, Karzai last December banned the use, import and production of ammonium nitrate fertilisers. afp
bth: I love stats, the percentage using left over ordnance went down as the number of overall ied attacks went up.  The left over ordnance attacks were relatively constant, as ordnance is recovered it is re-used.  The surge in IED attacks came from fertilizer bombs, from precursor elements obtained from 2 main plants in Paksitan.  Virtually all the increase in IED attacks came from fertilizer bombs.

General sees IED drop by year's end - USA Today

General sees IED drop by year's end -
WASHINGTON — The tide of roadside bomb attacks against U.S. and allied troops will be turned by December, according to the Pentagon's top general charged with combating them.
A remote-control robot moves a pressure plate taken from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that a unit discovered during a clearance mission Wednesday near Khakriz, Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Michael Oates told USA TODAY that by year's end, the counterinsurgency strategy will be fully implemented, troops will have better equipment to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and more bomb-planting insurgents will have been killed. That should stem the use of IEDs, the No. 1 killer of U.S. troops and the insurgents' preferred weapon, he said.

"If those three elements come into play, and I do think they will, my estimate is that we should see a turn down in the IEDs' effectiveness and number sometime six months from now," said Oates, chief of the Joint IED Defeat Organization.

New equipment includes thousands of all-terrain Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks designed specifically for Afghanistan. The number of units assigned to clearing bombs from roads also has doubled in the past six months to 75, Oates said. In coming months, the number of blimps with sophisticated cameras to keep watch over roads will increase from 13 to 64, he said.

Oates based his prediction, he said, in part due to his experience as a commander in Iraq when the use of IEDs peaked in 2007 but declined quickly as the insurgency was subdued.

"It's going to be more than that," Oates said. "The confluence of those three factors is going to have a significant effect on the enemy. It will improve our ability to operate."

Some military analysts agreed with Oates' prediction but said it would not signal an end to the war, nor the use of roadside bombs....
bth: Gen. Oates has a way of stating the obvious and making it sound intelligent.  Winter will be the biggest reducer of IED attacks and they will return in the Spring.  IED attacks are increasing year over year because we have more troops driving more miles over more roads and we are doing it in Taliban country so the opportunities to plant these cheap and effective devices increases with our troop levels.  If we were serious about reducing IEDs we'd sabotage the 2 ammonium nitrate plants in Pakistan, but we aren't.  So we let $100 devices destroy $1.5 million vehicles because that is cheaper than letting it destroy the men inside.  The MATVs are excellent vehicles and will reduce casualties for the men driving down those roads, but the Taliban won't stop using IEDs because they are effective - cheap, ubiquitous and also assure casualty free attacks on us.  So General Oates is right, attacks will go down by December, but next year they are likely to be as common as they are today.  And I'd add a prediction, the IED attacks will go after our civilian supply convoys and civilian contractors that aren't in the MATVs.

Monday, July 12, 2010

U.S. troops face Afghan enemy too young to kill - Yahoo! News

U.S. troops face Afghan enemy too young to kill - Yahoo! News..."Over the last eight to nine years there has been a dynamic change in the age of fighters. Most fighters now are between 14 and 18 years-old," said Lieutenant Colonel Guy Jones, commander of 2-508th Parachute Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, based in Arghandab.

"In 2002, fighters were 22 to 30-years-old and commanders were between 32 and 40," said Jones who is on his fourth tour in Afghanistan.

Jones pulls out a piece of paper from his pocket to illustrate his point. On the paper are the names of recently captured detainees with their photographs beside them. Their ages range from 14 to 20

One wounded boy caught firing a weapon at U.S. forces is now recovering in hospital at the main foreign air base in Kandahar. He is only 13, said Jones.


Jones said the young fighters were being coerced into joining the insurgency.

"These kids are looking at their elders and grandfathers as the great mujahideen, with respect, and they want to emulate them," said Jones, referring to the men who fought against the Soviet occupation during the 1980s.

"The Taliban are pressuring young fighters to fight like their grandfathers and telling them: 'Hey, be like them.'"

Whatever the reasons, it makes Best and his men wary of nearly everyone they meet on their patrol, and Afghanistan has one of the youngest populations in the world.

Each time the soldiers patrol out of their outpost in Arghandab, a white kite is hoisted up from a nearby village.

The soldiers know they have Taliban "spotters" around the area and that these are most likely children, but when they have challenged the kite fliers they claim ignorance. For the soldiers it has happened too many time to be a coincidence.

This time Staff Sergeant Best agreed with the Afghan police to let the detainees go, saying it could help build up a rapport with the community, but the platoon commander's frustration was palpable.

"At the end of the day we don't have enough evidence on them and keeping them in for another two days will only turn the village against us," he said.

"It's like you really have to catch them putting the bomb in or firing a gun at us for something to happen."
bth: I'm trying to understand what this fully means. Does it mean that we are on their home turf now? That this is where the Taliban's families are? Do these kids represent a global threat to America? If we drew back would these 14 year olds represent a strategic threat to the continental US?

Afghanistan's Pashtuns fight for their way of life - The National Newspaper

Afghanistan's Pashtuns fight for their way of life - The National Newspaper...“Unfortunately, if the situation goes on like now, 10 years later you will fight against maybe one million fundamentalists, people like the Taliban. Because it is clear that when you kill one innocent person among Pashtuns, 10 more Taliban will rise,” he said.

The potential for Afghanistan’s ethnic tensions to boil over into mass sectarian violence does appear to be growing. Tajik leaders have voiced their concern about any future peace deal with the Taliban and ethnic Hazara politicians have begun speaking out against the government in a row about cabinet posts.

Meanwhile, the violence in Pashtun areas shows no signs of abating. In the capital city there is anger, but in the provinces there is open revolt. Asadullah Waheedi, editor of the daily Sarnavesht newspaper, warned that opposition to the occupation was now a majority opinion among his people.

“The foreign troops and the current government prepared the ground for me to continue my education, they solved my economic problems and I am living in Kabul and have access to all the facilities of a modern life. But I am not happy for the Americans to stay for even one minute more in Afghanistan.

“So if a man is living in the countryside, seeing civilians killed by foreign soldiers and losing members of his family, why would he be happy for them to stay?”
bth: not that I agree with everything said, but it is important to listen and this is an article worth reading in full. I am beginning to think partition of Afghanistan supported by a US air force and special forces capability may be our best long term strategy.

Army team at Arlington seeks to guarantee burial records

Army team at Arlington seeks to guarantee burial recordsIn the month since Army investigators found hundreds of discrepancies between grave sites and burial records at Arlington National Cemetery, two very different worlds have emerged inside the gates of the Washington area's most venerated cemetery.

For the public, little has changed. Each weekday morning, solemn burials begin in far-flung corners of Arlington -- spread out so that one grieving family won't encounter another. By midday, a constant stream of sweltering tourists treks up the worn path from the Visitors Center to the grave site of President John F. Kennedy and the Tomb of the Unknowns.

But behind locked doors, in meeting and record rooms, a tense operation is underway. Dozens of military officials tasked with identifying the extent of mismanagement by the cemetery's former leaders are racing to meet deadlines to develop a plan to untangle Arlington's antiquated system of recordkeeping and to restore public confidence in the hallowed grounds.

In a windowless room under the main entrance, around a table strewn with phone lines and laptops, Army workers have set up a makeshift call center to focus on a crucial early step: addressing family members' fears that loved ones' graves might have been left unmarked, mis-marked or worse.

Since June 10, when the cemetery's superintendent was reprimanded and his deputy put on leave, a platoon of Army employees has logged nearly 1,000 calls from distraught family members and friends of those buried at Arlington.

Each new call triggers a days-long treasure hunt through the cemetery's paper archives, microfiche and wall-size cemetery maps to verify that every record of a veteran or family member interred matches the white tombstone on the ground.

It's a tedious and sometimes mind-numbing exercise that illustrates just how far Arlington will have to go to reach the level of digitized cemetery records standard at most national cemeteries run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and by other agencies that manage those at historic battlefields.

For most of the years since the first burial at Arlington in 1864, workers have used indexed card files for each section in which burials have been made or authorized. The cards are listed in numerical order, by grave. But the official record of the cemetery's 330,000 interred remains is kept separately and organized alphabetically, by last name. ...

bth: this is a puff piece story to show how hard the army is working at crisis management, and glossing over almost 20years of gross negligence in management and open corruption between the deputy director and contractors tasked with creating a suitable database. Forget the fact that this database has already been developed by the VA which managed more than 80 other cemeteries and that the VA offered it to the Army which manages Arlington. Arlington needs to be turned over to more competent management from the VA its that simple. It is a secondary consideration for the Army - cemetery management - and a primary one for the VA. Congress, grow a pair and give this operation over to the VA.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Seymour Hersh on Journalism, Afghanistan and Iraq « P U L S E

Seymour Hersh on Journalism, Afghanistan and Iraq « P U L S E: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

It gets really interesting around 21 minutes in. He claims that the Taliban vets the interpreters that come to work for the Americans in Afghanistan

Israeli Finance Ministry explains recent IDF-sourced Hezbollah stories « Coteret

Israeli Finance Ministry explains recent IDF-sourced Hezbollah stories « Coteret: ..........."The Finance Ministry accuses: “The IDF is using Hezbollah in the battle over the budget”

[Headline] Finance Ministry: Barak most expensive Defense Minister ever

[Sub-headline] The battle for the defense budget goes ad hominem; senior Finance Ministry officials: The IDF is even using Hezbollah to prevent cuts

Ben Caspit, Maariv, July 11 2010 [page 7; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

“Ehud Barak is the most expensive defense minister in Israel’s history”; “The IDF is impertinently disregarding all of the Brodet Commission’s findings, while deceiving the public”; “it’s interesting how every time the military budget is on the table, they release from the stocks Hezbollah’s missile array and expose sensitive classified material,” — these are just some of the harsh statements that were heard over the weekend among senior Finance Ministry officials and directed against the IDF and the security establishment.

A brutal struggle over the Defense Ministry’s budget is expected next week. Finance Ministry officials, headed by the finance minister versus the security establishment headed by the defense minister. A personal dual in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to give the final ruling. The cabinet is expected to vote on the Finance Ministry’s demand that the Defense Ministry’s budget be slashed next year, a cut, the Finance Ministry argues, that will only annul budgetary expansions and not harm the existing budget itself.

In order to promote the cut the Finance Ministry officials are stressing that the Defense Ministry’s budget has increased by dozens of percentage points in recent years. The finance minister himself, Yuval Steinitz, said in recent days that the Defense Ministry’s budget was soaring sky high like an F-16, whereas the other budgets were barely getting off the ground like a Piper plane.
bth: interesting that the Hezbollah talk up might be timed to a budget dispute in Israel.

Defense Spending Trends - To Infinity and Beyond

World Military Spending — Global Issues

After a decline following the end of the Cold War, recent years have seen military spending increase

US spending has increased the most in dollars, while China’s has increased the most in percentage terms
2001 military spending was $432bn. 2011’s is approximately $720bn.

bth: The President of one of the largest defense contractors in the national told me last summer at a conference, that we didn't need a domestic stimulus package because defense spending WAS the stimulus package.  What more he made a point, which I regret to say may be valid which was that military equipment is the only industry the US is looked up to across the world as the undisputed leader - Japan, China, Russia, Europe doesn't hold a candle to the US in military equipment.  This is a very sobering thought.  Is this what we have become?  We can't make a world class car but we can make a world class armored truck?  We can't get our kids college educations they can afford, but we can afford to make them the best soldiers the world has ever seen?

James Madison on War, Debt and Taxes

World Military Spending — Global Issues
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

— James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

Uganda Bomb Attacks Kill World Cup Fans: Al Shabab Suspected In Kampala Explosions

Uganda Bomb Attacks Kill World Cup Fans: Al Shabab Suspected In Kampala Explosions: ..."Al-Shabab is Somalia's most dangerous militant group, one that militant veterans of the Afghan, Pakistan and Iraq conflicts have helped train, according to international officials.

If Kaihura's early suspicions that al-Shabab was responsible prove true, it would be the first time the group has carried out attacks outside of Somalia.

In Mogadishu, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press early Monday that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda. Issa refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was responsible for the bombings.

'Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah's anger be upon those who are against us,' Sheik said.
Story continues below

During prayers on Friday, another al-Shabab commander, Sheik Muktar Robow, had called for militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi – two nations that contribute troops to the African Union force in Mogadishu....

bth: al Qaeda is unredeemable and needs to be killed. I don't feel this way about Taliban or Sunnis in Iraq, but with regard to al Qaeda, I see nothing worth redeeming, no one worth negotiating with. Their callous disregard for life, muslim and especially non-muslim is just beyond redemption.

A de facto partition for Afghanistan - Print View

A de facto partition for Afghanistan - Print ViewThe Obama administration’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan seems headed for failure. Given the alternatives, de facto partition of Afghanistan is the best policy option available to the United States and its allies.

After the administration’s December Afghanistan review, the U.S. polity should stop talking about timelines and exit strategies and accept that the Taliban will inevitably control most of its historic stronghold in the Pashtun south. But Washington could ensure that north and west Afghanistan do not succumb to jihadi extremism, using U.S. air power and special forces along with the Afghan army and like-minded nations.

Enthusiasts for the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy, or COIN, are likely to reject this way forward in Afghanistan. They will rightly point out the many complexities in implementing de facto partition.

De facto partition is clearly not the best outcome one can imagine for the United States in Afghanistan. But it is now the best outcome that Washington can achieve consistent with vital national interests and U.S. domestic politics. ...
bth: this is well worth reading in full. I think he is outlining an achievable outcome that would be suitable to the US